As part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture $24.3 million COVID-19 relief package extended to rural areas across the country, two Palmetto State school systems, a college and medical center will expand their telemedicine and distance learning platforms.
A $499,950 grant to Clinton College will go toward the establishment of a distance learning network linking libraries, churches and adult learning centers for residents in 12 rural counties in South Carolina. Funding will be used to back the school’s workforce certificate and college degree programs for adult learners, while the platform also will be used to offer pre-law and free virtual legal clinics from the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
The McLeod Regional Medical Center of the Pee Dee will make use of a $697,674 USDA grant to provide telehealth services to rural residents in Clarendon, Chesterfield, Marlboro and Florence counties, according to the release. Telehealth platforms will be installed at primary care offices in Manning and Cheraw for patients with lung ailments, as well as at public schools in the area to aid students with primary care visits and medication prescriptions.
The Pickens County School District received $845,291 to develop a distance learning and digital resource system for seven rural communities in the county through community support, dual-credit and foreign language courses, virtual field trips and professional development opportunities, as well as additional science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes, according to the release. The network is expected to serve 19,000 students.
Williamsburg County School District will create a distance learning system for dual enrollment students at third level institutions across the county with its $792,411 grant.
“The Distance Learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density,” USDA South Carolina Acting State Director for Rural Development Marty Bright-River said in the release. “USDA is committed to working with the local communities to provide services which allows rural America equal access to quality health care and education, because we know when we work together, America prospers.”
Overall, the $42.3 million national investment, including $24 million sourced from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, will benefit an estimated 5 million rural residents, according to the release.